Life is funny. You never know where or when you’ll meet people for the first time that you have known forever. The comfortableness, if that’s a word, of the friendship; the finishing of each other’s sentences and the knowledge that you were supposed to meet and be in each other’s life is amazing, isn’t it? That’s how it is with my friend Charley. We met at least 15 years ago when she was looking for a job and I was looking for a manager for our catering/carryout shop. She wore a green suit and had a briefcase. I asked if she had a pair of jeans. She said yes. I told her to go home, put on the jeans and come back. She did and it is, without a doubt, one of the best things that ever happened to me. We’ve been through a lot of changes together over the years. The key has been the fact that we know we have each other and all we have to do is call. Or not, because the other always knows when she’s needed. Telepathic stuff. It’s great. Plus she loves to drink wine.
One of our favorite things to do is to cook. Charley’s Jimmy is an incredible cook and loves to do it. Every Christmas he does something Italian for the four of us and last night he even topped himself. His momma was Italian and as he put it…”her heritage linked to the “toe of the boot”…or Calabria, Italy. Long story longer, I look for recipes that may have come from her neck of the woods. As you may or may not know Southern Italy was historically much poorer that Northern Italy and historically very little meat was consumed in this region. Anyway…I came across a recipe from Marcella H. that I cut out long ago because she touted Costolette d’Agnello all Calabrese; don’t ask me to pronounce it; but it means Lamb Chops Calabria Style with tomatoes, peppers and olives.” Then Jimmy goes on to say “I HAVE NEVER COOKED THIS DISH BEFORE. If you and Groom like….I plan to bring the ingredients as well. This is food, you can’t hurt my feelings, you both cook with passion as do Charley and I . If you had other ideas or are on point for something else already no worries darlin’, just a suggestion. Recipe follows, Love Jimmy.“
This is what I love about him, not scared at all to try something new. And it was just splendiferous!!! But then again, that’s our friendship!
Costolette d’Agnello all Calabrese
…adapted from Marcella Hazan
Marcella says: “This is a recipe that starts out as two before becoming one. The chops and the sauce…are cooked separately. Small rib chops should be cooked very briefly to a moist, flaming pink. Cook them too long, and they will turn gray and lose all their juice.”
1 large red bell pepper, or 2 small ones
8 rib lamb chops, each about 1 “ thick
Fine sea salt
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ cup chopped onion
2 cups peeled ripe fresh plum tomatoes or canned San Marzano
Cut up with their juice
3 tbsp chopped Italian parsley
¼ cup green olives in brine, pitted and coarsely chopped,
Freshly ground black pepper
Cut each pepper lengthwise along the creases, remove the stem, seeds, and pithy core and skin with a vegetable peeler. Cut into approximately 1-½ inch squares.
Sprinkle the chops on both sides with a little salt.
Put the olive oil into a 12 inch cast iron skillet and turn on the heat to high. When hot, slide in the lamb chops. Brown them thoroughly on one side, turn them and brown them thoroughly on the other side.
Remove them from the pan to a plate.
Put the chopped onion into the pan and cook it over lively heat, stirring frequently, until it becomes colored a rich gold. Add the cut up peppers, parsley, olives, salt and generous grindings of black pepper. Turn the heat down to medium.
Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes until the peppers are tender but firm.
Sprinkle the chops with pepper and put them into the pan with the sauce. Turn the chops over several times to coat them well and after a minutes or so empty the full contents of the skillet onto a warm platter and promptly bring to the table.